A Letter from your incumbent

Thriving not Surviving

Have your say and help to shape our benefice for the future
When I wrote last month, I noted that providing people applied interviews for the post of Associate Priest were scheduled to take place on June 11th. I am therefore delighted to tell you that people did apply, interviews were held and a new Associate Priest has been appointed for our benefice. This is very good news and we look forward with hope and anticipation to the future as we move on together. However, and I know this will be a little frustrating, at this point of writing I cannot give you any further information about our new Associate Priest as the notification of the appointment has to be made in all of the churches, their own and ours, at the same time; as yet we don’t have the go ahead for this. All will be revealed in the weeks to come!
It is interesting and reassuring to note that our benefice Profile, drawn up with the appointment of our Associate Priest in mind, is being held up as a model of good practice in the diocese for how things should work in multi-parish benefices. Something I can share with you is that, in line with our advert placed back in April which asked for ‘a passion for rural ministry, a pastoral heart and a pioneering practitioner’ and with the requirements of our Benefice Profile, we gave our candidates a very full and rounded experience of benefice life on the interview day.  One important element of this was that we know that in going forward we need careful planning if we are to flourish and grow as the Church in West Purbeck. We had said in our Benefice Profile that we have become a Thrive Learning Community with a steering group leading us through a two year process which began last March. The task, or purpose, of ‘Thrive’ is to enable us to identify our key priorities as a benefice and to lead us forward in taking steps to achieve them. Candidates knew when they came for interview that this is the case and they had plenty of opportunity to think about this and engage with members of the Thrive Team. I take this opportunity of updating with you as to where we are with ‘Thrive’ and to encourage your whole hearted engagement with it for the future of our benefice. 
As I outlined at the APCMs in both St Laurence Church and St John the Baptist Church in April, a group of 8 of us from across the three churches, all of whom responded to my open invitation and volunteered to become part of the team, committed to a two year course that includes 4 x 2 day sessions of intensive training in Blandford to help us to work collaboratively on things that we identify as needs within our churches and communities.  Our new Associate Priest will join us in this process.  We met for the first 2 day session in March where we were invited to imagine how we would hope our benefice could look in 2022 and to identify our ‘burning issue’ for where we now are which, God willing, will help us to achieve the vision for 2022.   We identified our burning issue as the need for us to intentionally work at growing together and working together as partners in the benefice. It is very encouraging that members of our churches, some far more than others, have begun to embrace the sense of partnership by worshipping in each other’s churches when there is no Service in their own parish church, but there is a very long way for us to go for us to believe that we are the Church in West Purbeck, and to become recognised together as such. 
In terms of planning, as I identified at the APCM’s, we believe that everything must be underpinned with and guided by prayer. A prayer group has already been established; you are warmly invited to come along to pray for the benefice and its future. In due course we would hope that something of a simple (spiritual) Rule of Life specific to our benefice will be developed that every member can sign up to and follow.  The Thrive Team determined to meet regularly, which we have done, including with our diocesan Thrive mentor, our Rural Field Officer, Canon Tim Hancock. Because ‘Thrive’ is about the future of our benefice there is the need for everyone in the benefice to be engaged with it in order to avoid the trap of people being ‘done to’ rather than working collaboratively together. For this reason we’re following the time tested method and model of good practice in asking everyone for their thoughts, hopes and dreams in creating a questionnaire for our church families, bespoke to us although based on national examples. This was sent out on Pentecost Sunday June 9th with the requested return date of 14th July. The responses to this, and a further questionnaire to our wider local communities which will follow in due course, will shape the work of our benefice going forward.  You are therefore invited and encouraged to be part of the planning and decision making by filling in the questionnaire and returning it asap. It is intended that the results of the questionnaires will be shared at the joint Benefice Service on 29th September. 
As I said last month there is much to look forward to and exciting times ahead. Please pray about this and play your part in taking things forward.
With blessings
Rev Carol